Atherosclerosis and inflammation: insights from rheumatoid arthritis

Clin Rheumatol. 2007 Aug;26(8):1228-33. doi: 10.1007/s10067-007-0548-7. Epub 2007 Feb 2.


Cardiovascular disease is a major health care problem and the most common cause of death among individuals from developed nations. Our understanding of atherosclerosis has evolved from a passive process resulting in narrowing of the lumen and consequent myocardial ischemia to a dynamic process that involves inflammation. The study of atherosclerosis in patients with chronic inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), will provide insights into the relationship between inflammation and atherosclerosis. We review the relationship between atherosclerosis and inflammation within the context of RA, providing evidence that patients with RA have increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and accelerated coronary and extra-coronary atherosclerosis. In addition, traditional and novel cardiovascular risk factors are discussed. Finally, actions that a rheumatologist can take to better control this cardiovascular morbidity are suggested. These can be summarized as follows: (1) careful assessment and treatment of cardiovascular risk, (2) better control of inflammation, and (3) individual risk-benefit evaluation of need for cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and high doses of corticosteroids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Atherosclerosis / complications
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy
  • Atherosclerosis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Morbidity
  • Risk Factors